CVIndependent

Tue12102019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

State Fair: Babe’s Is the California Brewery of the Year

Arthur Vasquez, the chief operating officer at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage, humbly posits that Babe’s does not make the state’s best beer, as far as his palate is concerned.

“I’ll be the first person to tell you that there are some amazing beers produced in California, and I would jump over my beer to get to them in a second,” he said.

However, the judges at the Northern California Brewers Guild, who run the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew Competition, disagree: They say Babe’s is the 2015 Brewery of the Year.

This is an incredible honor for Babe’s, the granddaddy of the Coachella Valley craft-brew world. According to the Northern California Brewers Guild, 302 participants entered some 1,086 beers in the contest, and Babe’s took top honors in part because three of the six beers Babe’s entered won awards: the Belgian Vanilla Blond Ale, the 2014 Winterfest Ale, and the Blackfin Lager.

The Independent spoke to Vasquez on the day before he was slated to hop on a quick flight out of Ontario to Sacramento for an awards ceremony on the steps of the California State Capitol.

“We’re in a bit of a shock. We were hoping to win a ribbon or two,” Vasquez said, adding that the six beers Babe’s entered must have “just happened to hit the technical qualities in the categories we entered. … We sent the right beers to the right competition.”

Modesty aside, Babe’s is obviously doing something right: Vasquez noted that Babe’s has taken home at least one award from every competition the brewery has entered since 2009.

“This means a lot to us,” Vasquez said.

Congratulations to everyone at Babe’s, located at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Watch the Babe’s Facebook page for updates and more information.


Johannes Clarifies Bottled-Water Policy

Last month in this space, we poked fun at the fact that Johannes Restaurant, located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was going to stop serving tap water, and instead only serve bottled water imported from New Zealand—in an effort to “preserve the environment.”

After that item appeared, chef/owner Johannes Bacher invited me to the restaurant so he could further explain the policy.

First: Bacher noted that even though an initial news release said Johannes customers would no longer be able to receive tap water, period, customers can have tap water, if they insist, rather than paying $1 per bottle for the Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water.

Second: He insisted he was not making any money off the policy change, because he was essentially offering the Waiwera at cost.

Third: He extolled the virtues of Waiwera, and said he didn’t see much of a pollution problem coming from the fact that the water is shipped in all the way from New Zealand.

“I’m not harming the environment, because much of the stuff in the U.S. comes from overseas, anyway,” he said.

Fourth: He said that the use of tap water at Johannes—and therefore, use of California’s dwindling water supply—had been “greatly reduced” since the policy change.

So … there you have it. You can judge for yourself whether Bacher’s policy makes sense.

Get more information at www.johannesrestaurants.com.


In Brief

A lesson to all would-be scammers out there: Do your research! Mindy Reed, the owner of Zin American Bistro in downtown Palm Springs, recently received a letter at the restaurant from a Jack Sardinias of Hollywood, Fla. He was asking Zin to reimburse him for a cleaning bill, after a server at Zin allegedly spilled a small amount of sauce on his wife’s jacket. Here’s where the story gets interesting: Reed also owns Alicante, also in downtown Palm Springs—and Alicante received an almost-identical letter from the same person. Word is that other downtown Palm Springs restaurants were targeted, too. … Further proof that the Coachella Valley is becoming less “seasonal” as the years go by: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café, located at 72990 El Paseo, Suite 3, in Palm Desert, recently announced that for the first time, the restaurant would be open all summer long. “We recognize that many of our loyal customers will be here all summer, and they are so happy that we’re planning to stay open,” said Christophe Douheret, an owner of Clementine, in a news release. Yay! … On the flip side, Margaritas, located at 100 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, closed for the summer on June 28. Management says to expect a re-opening on Oct. 1. … Because most local city councils are paranoid and ridiculously behind the times, it’s unlikely the Coachella Valley will be home to a vibrant food-truck scene anytime soon. However, Noni’s Wood-Fired Pizza, a mobile pizza-service operation, has found a work-around: It’s planning a series of “pop-up” partnerships with brick-and-mortar joints, the first of which will take place at Justme Sweets Bakery and Café, 83214 Requa Ave., In Indio, on Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11. Visit www.facebook.com/nonispizza for more details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Top Chef Comes to Palm Springs

During its 12 seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has spent time in great food cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and, most recently, Boston.

Now we can add Palm Springs to the list … sort of.

For the show’s 13th season, producers decided to mix things up by returning to California—but hopping around, with stops in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the Coachella Valley.

While not a lot of details on the Palm Springs stop have been released, here’s what we do know: On Wednesday, May 20, the chef-testants were tasked with cooking for a mass same-sex wedding/renewal-of-vows ceremony. We also know that Over the Rainbow’s Roman Blas was asked to make a wedding cake for the show. (He shared that tidbit on Facebook.)

If any more Top Chef news makes its way to our desk, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Johannes Stops Offering Tap Water in Favor of Bottles ... to ‘Preserve the Environment’?

OK, we’re confused here.

Johannes Restaurant—for my money, one of the top restaurants in the valley—has announced that as of June 15, it will no longer serve tap water, and will instead offer bottled water from New Zealand.

Why, you ask? It’s being done in an effort to “preserve the environment.” Yeah, we don’t get it, either.

Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

“The restaurant will offer Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water, a New Zealand treasure for centuries, for $1. Waiwera water is carbon neutral and bottled at the source in BPA-free PET bottles. If a guest doesn’t finish the bottle of water, they can take it with them.

“Serving tap water with ice has become wasteful, and in order to conserve water, Johannes has made this decision to convert to a new concept. Restaurants in other cities are adopting this same concept. During the course of a year, the restaurant uses over 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of ice and 15,000 gallons of water, which converts to an average of over 75,000 glasses of water and ice per year.”

The news release goes on to say: “We hope more restaurants in the Coachella Valley will consider doing the same and that our guests will understand and support our concept.”

OK. We understand that less water will be coming out of California’s aquifers as a result of this move, perhaps … but shipping water all the way in from New Zealand!?

If we figure out how that works, we’ll let you know. For more information, visit www.johannesrestaurants.com.

Babe's Joins Forces With The Venue for a Special Dinner

It’s being touted as “the desert’s first five-course sushi and craft beer pairing dinner.”

It is taking place at The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 3. The Venue’s sushi will be combined with the great beer—and a little bit of the barbecue—from Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage. The dinner starts with tempura-style stuffed zucchini blossoms (with spicy tuna!) being paired with Babe’s Honey Blond Ale—and it goes from there. As for the third course: We’re dying to find out what hickory-smoked tri-tip sashimi is! It’s being paired with Babe’s Bin 1214 Imperial Red Ale.

The dinner is $65 per person. For reservations or more details, call 760-346-1500.

In Brief

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge is closed—again. After getting back on its figurative feet after two recent fires, the restaurant, at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, quite suddenly shut its doors on May 17. We’re told that serious maintenance issues within the building could not wait any longer to be fixed, so management decided to bite the bullet and address them, all while keeping fingers crossed for an Aug. 1 reopening. Here’s hoping that’s the case, as we’re already hankering for a bowl of Twin Palms’ amazing gumbo. Watch www.facebook.com/twinpalmsbistro for updates. ... Jersey Mike’s Subs is now open at 79174 Highway 111, in La Quinta. It’s the second Jersey Mike’s in the valley; there’s already one on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and a third is supposedly coming to Palm Springs. … Wasabi, a Japanese/sushi joint that had for years been located at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed, and an Italian restaurant is taking its place. More details to come. … The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has again tweaked its menus with help from Five Leaves restaurant out of Brooklyn, N.Y. We recently joined other media folks at a tasting of the new fare at the Ace’s King’s Highway, and found the food to be quite tasty. In particular, we were blown away by the shepherd’s pie! We’re also intrigued by the fact that the Ace is now serving some special cocktails out of taps and bottles. We’ll share more boozy details when we get ’em; in the meantime, head to www.acehotel.com/palmsprings to check out the new menus.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Closed: 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

The busy season is over—and that means this is the time of year when some restaurants on the edge financially will decide to close up shop rather than brave another Coachella Valley summer.

One of the first casualties of the (unofficial) summer of 2015: the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, which was located at 73101 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. It closed on Sunday, April 19.

In a news release, owner Ed Moore blamed the seasonality of business in the Coachella Valley for his decision to close the Palm Desert 3rd Corner, which opened in June 2010.

“Unlike our other two very successful restaurants in Ocean Beach and Encinitas, our Palm Desert location is a highly seasonal location which does very well in the winter and early spring, but struggles, like many restaurants in the Coachella Valley, during the summer and fall,” Moore said. “The seasonality of the market coupled with the fact that our restaurant lease is expiring has prompted us to close down our Palm Desert location.”

The aforementioned Ocean Beach and Encinitas locations of 3rd Corner remain open. For more information, visit www.the3rdcorner.com.

New: Rooster and the Pig

Rooster and the Pig, a “Vietnamese American Beer Bar” located in the old Café Scandia space at 356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now open.

We didn’t get a chance to check out the place in person before our press deadline, but the menu posted on the restaurant’s website offers some intriguing Vietnamese-themed fare, including tumeric chicken, mushrooms and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) over forbidden rice; a banh mi burger; and sweet-and-sour vegetable soup with pineapple, tomato, cilantro and sprouts. These yummy treats come courtesy of chef Tai Spendley, whose influences are listed on the website as “French technique, Asian heritage and bi-coastal gallivanting.”

The website also includes this tidbit: “The Rooster, of course, wants to be in charge, and that suits the hard working, No. 2-preferring Pig just fine. The practical-minded Rooster has clear and detailed vision, and the Pig gleefully helps carry out the Rooster’s plans.”

We don’t know what that means, but we find it utterly fascinating.

Learn more by calling 760-832-6691, or visit www.roosterandthepig.com.

In Brief

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week is here—or at least it is as of Friday, May 29. The annual celebration of all things food and drink in the Coachella Valley runs through Sunday, June 7; during that time, participating restaurants will be offering three-course prix-fixe menus for either $26 or $38. Watch www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com for a list of participating restaurants, menus and more. … Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. The granddaddy of local craft brewers celebrated its 13th anniversary in April. … The folks at Bart Lounge, the bar and art gallery located at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. F-124, in Cathedral City, tell us the much-anticipated joint will be opening its doors on Friday, May 1. A big name will be present, in a way, for the bar’s opening month: The art of film great Tim Burton is on display. Get details at www.facebook.com/bartlounge. ... In other bar news: The space that once housed Clinic and, briefly, Hester, at 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now home to Tryst. It shares ownership and management with Score, a bar just around the corner on Arenas Road. Get more details at www.facebook.com/pages/Tryst-Bar-and-Lounge/867474949983973. ... Congrats to Johannes Restaurant, located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—for my money, one of the top restaurants in Palm Springs. Mimi Sheraton, a former restaurant critic for The New York Times, included Johannes Bacher’s schnitzel in her book 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. … Update: The demolition of the building that was home to Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, finally took place in April. The building was destroyed by a Christmas Day 2014 fire; keep your fingers crossed for a late-fall opening of Bernie’s 2.0 in a brand-new building at the same location. … The Steakhouse at the Spa Resort Casino, located at 401 E. Amado Road in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Kieran Fleming. He’s a veteran of Hyatt properties in San Diego and Indian Wells, and spent five years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Dish Creative Cuisine Using Kickstarter to Help With Move

Dish Creative Cuisine, the Cathedral City restaurant that made waves with its upscale modern food and tasty amuse-bouche offerings over the last two years, is moving to downtown Palm Springs—and the restaurant’s owner is asking for the public’s help.

In an email sent to Dish customers on July 21, chef/owner Joane Garcia Colson explained that the restaurant, which had been located at 68525 Ramon Road, would be reopening in the fall at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—once the site of renowned tiki joint Don the Beachcomber. The new location will have a full bar, and a selection of more casual dishes will join the upscale offerings on the menu.

However, Garcia Colson also asked for a li’l help from her friends. “As with any expansion, however, we need assistance to bring it to full fruition,” she wrote. “It is incredibly hard to ask others for help, and it is something I have avoided doing. But we need help, so I am writing to you, hoping some of you will be able to support us in this venture. We have created a Kickstarter campaign and would appreciate you taking a look at it and helping us in any way you can.”

A look at that Kickstarter effort reveals that Garcia Colson’s goal is to raise $49,500 by Monday, Aug. 25. It also revealed a few added details about the new Dish: The restaurant will be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and in the high season, it will offer Sunday brunch and perhaps lunch Thursday through Saturday.

The new spot will also include a “Chef's Room,” “where small, intimate, tasting dinners will occasionally be offered for a pre-fixe price,” the Kickstarter page says. “This private dining room will be right off the kitchen and will feature a large window where the diners can watch the kitchen in action.”

We are big fans of what Garcia Colson did in her space on Ramon—and we can’t wait to see what she does in downtown Palm Springs.

For more information, follow the goings-on at the Dish Facebook page.

Johannes Offers $10 Schnitzel, Other Anniversary Specials

For my money, Johannes—located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—is one of the best restaurants in the valley. And this summer, I’m not shelling out quite so much of that aforementioned money to dine there.

To celebrate the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, chef Johannes Bacher and company are offering a variety of discounted schnitzel dishes in the bar area. This is nothing new, but the steeper discounts are indeed new: Basic bar schnitzel now costs just $10. Want one of Johannes’ renowned toppings? (I personally am a fan of the Mama’s schnitzel, which is covered with tomatoes, gruyere and fontina cheeses, and basil. Yummy!) That’ll set you back just $14.

The restaurant is also offering a $29 prix-fire menu during the summer, which includes a selected entrée, an appetizer or dessert, and a house cocktail.

Johannes is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Call 760-778-0017, or visit johannespalmsprings.com for more information.

And Now, a Rant on Prices

We were hungry for a light meal, so the partner and I decided to stop at one of our normal haunts for cocktails and a couple of our favorite appetizers.

All was well and good until we opened the menu—and saw that the restaurant had raised the prices on many of those favorite items.

I understand that all businesses have to increase their prices now and then. That’s life. But businesses also need to realize that there can be consequences if price increases are too drastic—and that’s exactly what happened here.

My fave appetizer had been $9—and it was now $11. That’s a 22 percent price increase. My favorite cocktail, a lovely, flowery martini (hey, don’t judge), saw a similar price boost.

The result of all this? That restaurant is no longer one of our normal haunts. I would have dealt with a more reasonable increase, like 50 cents or even a dollar. But not 22 percent (especially in the middle of the summer, when many restaurants are offering lower-cost specials to attract customers).

I’m not the only savvy, cost-conscious foodie out there. Something tells me these price increases may actually lead to a revenue decrease at this restaurant.

Stay tuned.

In Brief

Mark your calendars: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding its third annual Craft Beer Weekend on Friday through Sunday, Sept. 12-14. Expect tastings from more than 20 craft breweries, as well as a pool party/barbecue and a special five-course meal—with beer pairings, of course. More info at the Ace website. ... Just a reminder that many of the town’s top restaurants close their doors for all or part of August. Unless you’re sure your favorite spot is open, it never hurts to call ahead.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: Gypsy veal schnitzel

Where: Johannes Restaurant, 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $25

Contact info: 778-0017; http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/

Why: Because of the variety and intensity of flavor.

Johannes, located just a wee bit off the beaten path in downtown Palm Springs, offers a variety of Continental cuisine, especially Austrian/Viennese favorites—and while the restaurant celebrates its 13th anniversary, included is an entire menu of schnitzels (mostly made with veal, of course, but some made with organic chicken).

While the schnitzels offer a variety of ingredients and, therefore, flavors, the gypsy is the one that has the most flavor. On top of the nicely crunchy schnitzel is a flavorful green peppercorn-brandy sauce, capers, baby pickles, onions and roasted fingerling potatoes. This is not a dish for people who like nuance; this is a dish for people who like a full-throttle taste-buds assault.

The mix of intense flavors makes this dish a real winner. All dishes come with a ewer of yogurt with dill and cucumber, which makes a nice contrast to the schnitzel.

Published in The Indy Endorsement